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Lawsuit claims former Loyola Marymount dean fired aide to hide alleged misspending

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Students walk between classes at Loyola Marymount University under posters of past university presidents.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A woman who served as the assistant to a former dean at Loyola Marymount University filed a whistleblower lawsuit Monday alleging that he fired her when she refused to go along with his schemes to misspend university funds on pornography, extravagant meals and first-class airfare.

Shane Martin, who served as dean of LMU’s School of Education and Graduate Studies until becoming provost at Seattle University last June, denied the charges in the lawsuit.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny these false and outrageous allegations of wrongdoing against me,” he said in a statement to The Times. “I stand by my record of service and leadership at Loyola Marymount University. “I intend to vigorously defend my honor and integrity.”

An LMU spokeswoman said the university does not comment on litigation or personnel matters.

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Mary Navia, who served as Martin’s administrative specialist from June 2017 until she was fired in February 2018, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Martin and LMU, a top-ranked Catholic university overlooking Marina del Rey and Playa Del Rey. She claimed in the lawsuit that she had repeatedly but “to no avail” reported her concerns to other superiors.

In an interview, Navia said she was abruptly fired for unsatisfactory job performance even though no one had ever complained about her work.

Navia’s “retaliatory termination occurred due to her refusal to violate Federal law and her refusal to go along with Martin’s ongoing scheme of misappropriating LMU funds for personal use,” the lawsuit alleges.

She also claims Martin and LMU violated her labor rights by failing to pay overtime wages and give her breaks for meals and rest, according to the lawsuit brought on her behalf by Valiant Law and West Coast Trial Lawyers.

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Navia told the Times that working at the Jesuit university was a dream job because of her strong Catholic faith. “They had my trust before I even walked in there because it’s LMU,” she said.

The lawsuit alleges that:

  • Martin and his former assistant instructed Navia to circumvent the university’s $60 daily meal budget by submitting false expense forms with phony names of guests. Navia said she refused to do so. The former assistant could not be reached for comment.
  • Martin used university funds monthly to pay for porn videos. When Navia objected, the lawsuit alleges, she was told by an LMU administrator, Jordan Gadd, that pornography was a legitimate educational expense. Gadd, through an LMU spokeswoman, declined to comment.
  • Martin participated in financial aid fraud by helping a student enroll in classes, which the student would later drop while keeping the aid.
  • Martin regularly spent LMU funds for personal outings and instructed Navia to circumvent university policy on travel arrangements.

Martin is a prominent specialist in intercultural education who served as an LMU faculty member, administrator and dean for nearly 25 years. He also held leadership positions with Green Dot Public Schools, Teach for America, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the Assn. of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

Twitter: @TeresaWatanabe


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